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volvo mack

Capstone Phase 1 & Phase 2

Carnegie Mellon University | 2022

The first 2 phases (out of 4) consisted of primary and secondary research to develop a product opportunity gap that would later be solved in Phases 3 and 4. 

My group consisted of 5 other people from backgrounds in design, engineering, and business. Our project was sponsored by Mack.

Team: Thomas Lansing, Manas Mahaddalkar,

Anne Milan, Kehan Xiao, Yifan Cui

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methods used


  • Design Thinking

  • User Research 

  • Market Research

  • Ethnographic Research

  • Interviews

  • Surveys

  • Secondary Research

(text, film, exhibitions, case studies)

  • Figma

  • Miro 

  • Google Forms

MACK identified a challenge for the innovation team to find ways to improve the work and experience of refuse truck operators in Low Cab over Extension (LCOE) vehicles. 

Our hope was to increase worker satisfaction and pride in work for the purpose of increasing talent attraction and retention across the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) collection industry. Furthermore, we intend for this exploration to increase the positive social perception of the refuse collection profession.

mack's challenge


  • These two phases consisted of secondary and primary research. We began with background research and PESTLE analysis, did an extensive stakeholder mapping, analyzed the competition and preliminary business modeling to understand the industry on a broad level.

  • We concluded Phase 1 with an elaboration of our product opportunities, as an initial Product Opportunity Gap (POG). Themes from the research informed our field interviews, field intercepts, and definition of the product opportunity gap (POG).

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how might we's


research plan

  1. Competitive  Analysis - We considered four of Mack’s competitors: Autocar, Heil, New Way, and McNeilus, which we assessed across five dimensions: Equipment, Safety, Technology, Driver Experience, & Sustainability. 

  2. Stakeholder Mapping – To understand what stakeholders are involved and their relationships with each other, we mapped the primary and secondary stakeholders. 

  3. Jobs to be done – To understand goal states by mapping out situations, motivations, and expected outcomes. Most of the situations were on the job or in the cab and the expected outcomes were to increase efficiency or productivity.

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SWOT Analysis

Stakeholder Mapping

primary research

1. Surveys - 180+ responses from residential refuse truck drivers, and commercial refuse truck drivers, roll-off drivers, and helpers.

2. Intercepts - 8 Drivers

3. Interviews - 12 team wide

4. Field visits - Micheal Brothers and Vogel 


Analyzing these responses through affinity clustering, clear themes emerged which centered around ‘politics of growth in the company’, ‘retention as it relates to the equipment’, ‘talent attraction and difficulty of the job’, ‘wear and tear of the cab’.




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1. Not the lack of solutions, but the lack of adoption: The lag in the adoption of valuable new tools and methods by the waste management industry leaves the current operators stuck with battered equipment and tedious ways of working.

​We found, from our research, that the industry uses a lot of battered equipment and drivers have tedious ways of working. Drivers have issues like lack of cab room, breaking down of parts, complicated ways of communications to maintenance, having to shovel snow and ice on the job, and outdated methods of route scheduling. A lot of these problems already have existing solutions to them and a lack of adoption by the industry resulted in longer working hours for the drivers. 

2. A vicious cycle: Refuse company managers treat new drivers as replaceable, which leads to a lack of supporting ecosystem for the new drivers. This undervaluing worsens the problem of driver retention.

We also found that long working hours overworked drivers, who then either quit, or dissuade new talent from coming into the job. This leads to a lack of new talent which in turn causes longer work hours for drivers. Complaints from drivers included having long hours and less family time which made them not recommend the job. 

3. “Next, please!”: The shortage of refuse truck drivers excessively increases working hours which pushes drivers to quit and exacerbates the problem of driver shortages.

Our last loop suggested that companies treated new talent as disposable. This caused them to provide very little support to them. The drivers now ended up getting in more accidents and eventually got fired. This lack of support caused a declining driver retention rate.

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final product opportunity gap

How might we future-proof the tools and processes of existing refuse truck drivers such that new talent is attracted and retained?

Click here to see Phase 3+4 of our proposed solution to MACK.

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